The Bad Seed


1956's The Bad Seed is unlike any other "evil child" film I've seen. There is an emphasis on character and performance. The film is essentially an adapted version of the Broadway production of the same name. It feels like a play. There aren't many sets, the exposition is dialogue-driven, and some of the acting is stagey in the most melodramatic of ways. This was a heavy, shocking picture for the 1950's. It doesn't dance around the doleful subject matter. The emotions hit hard, and I nearly welled up at one point. I can't say that about Mikey or Orphan.

Of course, The Bad Seed wouldn't be as gripping without its premier cast. Nancy Kelly is impossibly consumed by her role as the mother of the titular brat. She expertly conveys all of the anguish and confusion you would expect her character to go through. Patty McCormick pulls off the "disturbed little girl" routine with unnerving nonchalance. She's almost too convincing! I have to mention Eileen Heckart's amazing turn as the glazed, aggrieved Mrs. Daigle. She puts everything she has into her performance. I bought every word that stumbled out of her mouth (if you've seen the film, you know what I mean).

Any cons? Well, it's a slow-burner with a 129-minute running time. The film does hobble along at a passive stride that tests your patience. In addition, one could say that The Bad Seed is a tad too theatrical, and that would be a fair observation. This isn't a faultless flick. I wouldn't recommend it if you're looking for a flighty, lighthearted b-movie. Otherwise, give it a whirl, by all means. It makes the aforementioned Orphan look like John Carpenter's Village of the Damned.

1 comment:

  1. I've always loved The Bad Seed. I had my son watch it with me and he couldn't get why she was so mean lol. It's disturbing without having to use violence that's right in your face. The little girl is great. Nice to see this one reviewed, and nice review of it. You're right on theatrics, but Thank God it's not as melodramatic as a lot of stuff of its time.